The Story of The Loose Caboose

Missoula’s Favorite Warming Hut

The Loose Caboose in Missoula, Montana was founded in 1994 by Malcolm Lowe. Over 25 years, expanding to 5 locations and a presence at Missoula’s Farmers Market, The Loose Caboose has been a staple of the Missoula coffee community. Read below to learn more!

How it Began

1993 - Missoula, MT

Owner, Malcolm Lowe, moved to Missoula in 1993 having spent the previous 10 years as an itinerant troubadour and part time barista up and down the west coast.  Not finding many job listings for Sackbut players (renaissance trombone) in Missoula he decided to try his hand at business.

Malcolm wanted a theme that was in harmony with Missoula’s history as a western rail town.  In the Missoula Public Library he discovered pictures of horse drawn cable cars and fell in love with the charm of them.  

He also came across a children’s book and settled on the name “The Loose Caboose”. 

With a little financial help from his sister and the limited skills he had learned in theater shop, he set about building the first kiosk in the driveway of their house in South Hills. When it was finished there was a tense day hauling the little building to “malfunction junction.”  

 

On June 19, 1994, the business opened, and Malcolm began sharing with Missoulians the joy of a cafe latte

 

Growth

North Reserve

Four years later, Malcolm once again asked his neighbors to forbear him building a Caboose in his driveway.

In October 1998, the second Loose Caboose became one of the first new businesses on North Reserve, when Karl Tyler was where Lowe’s is currently located and Costco had just been built. 

Coffee COntinues

More Locations and Farmers Market

Wanting to participate in a vibrant part of the Missoula community, it was also in 1998 that The Loose Caboose started a mobile cart at the Missoula Farmer’s Market.  With no electrical power in the location they offered, Malcolm devised a Solar Powered espresso trailer, “The Sol Caboose.” 

After years using solar at the Missoula Farmers Market, the solar power system was unable to keep up with demand and the market trailer moved to the Clark Fork Market where 220 power is available.

Mullan Road came next along with an adjoining warehouse to store cups and supplies and a small office.

As the little coffee empire grew, so did regulations and the desire for more fully appointed buildings.  The newer Cabooses are connected to sewer and water and have bathrooms. 

The Story GOES ON

5 Locations To Serve You

When the original “flagship” was hit by a truck (all baristas safe and accounted for) the old original was auctioned for charity and replaced with the new design. This new design still stands today and is the design for the other new locations. 

Following the location at Mullan were locations at Broadway and South Reserve.

The story of the Loose Caboose doesn’t end here – it continues with you. We look forward to serving the people of Missoula every day and bringing a smile to the faces of our community!